The House of Representatives awaits the Senate approval of a House measure strengthening the mental health services of state universities and colleges (SUCs) and appropriates budget for it.
The lower chamber approved the House Bill 6416 on third and final reading before it went on Christmas break on December 15.
The House leadership led by Speaker Martin Romualdez stayed true to its commitment to the needs of SUCs passing the bill on final reading.
The proposed SUCs Mental Health Service Act was approved on Monday by 227 affirmative votes during the last week of plenary sessions of the chamber.
“It is hereby declared the policy of the State to uphold the basic right of every Filipino to sound mental health and ensure access to appropriate interventions, therapy, and treatment as needed. Pursuant to this mandate, the State shall institute policies to promote the mental health and wellness of students, faculty, teaching and non-teaching staff, and other personnel in the campuses of SUCs through, among others, the establishment of a Mental Health Office in all SUCs, and the hiring, deployment, and training of additional SUCs-based mental health service personnel,” the lawmakers noted.
Under Section 4 of HB 6416, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) shall require all SUCs to establish a Mental Health Office (MHO) in all their campuses, subject to the rules and regulations of the Civil Service Commission 3 (CSC) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the policies, standards, and guidelines of the CHED.
The MHOs shall set up campus hotlines with dedicated and trained guidance counselors to provide assistance to the whole SUC Community, especially the students. Special attention shall be given to those identified to have mental health problems or conditions, especially those at risk of committing suicide.
The CHED and the SUCs, through their MHOs, shall initiate and sustain a heightened campaign to raise the collective consciousness about mental health. The awareness campaign shall give special emphasis to the issues of suicide prevention, stress handling, mental health and nutrition, and guidance and counseling. The campaign shall ensure that the whole SUC community, especially the students, is aware of in-campus mental health services.
Section 5 of the bill also requires the SUCs to hire, train and deploy mental health professionals, including a psychologist, to the MHO to ensure that each SUC shall have mental health professionals or mental health service providers within five (5) years from the effectivity of the Act.
The 2021 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFSS) of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) presented this year has revealed a dramatic decline in the mental wellbeing of young Filipinos. The study noted that about six in 10 youth who experienced symptoms of depression did not reach out to anyone for help, and even fewer went to professionals for help. The Department of Health said that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to growing mental health needs of Filipinos, adding that at least 3.6 million Filipinos are facing mental health issues during the pandemic.
The authors of the measure were House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez, and Jude Acidre, among others.